When developing software, people should always be the starting point

7 June 2022

A software’s goal is to make people’s lives easier. As such, it is crucial for software development to begin with people. So, what exactly do they need?

Tools make life easier

Humankind has always created and made use of tools to better aid our lives. As an example, it is thanks to these tools that fishermen no longer need to spend an entire day having to collect the day’s catch instead bringing in more with the use of a fishing net. Similarly, software is also a tool that makes things easier — performing certain actions.

Today, we tend to forget this crucial fact about software. We forget that it is something that is supposed to help us by making tedious and complicated things simpler, because sometimes, it feels as if software is actually making things more complicated. That’s a shame.

Oftentimes, entrepreneurs develop a software package because they’ve seen something similar being developed at another company. They don’t want to be left behind, and so, they recreate the same thing. But in doing so, they often lose sight of the goal. They forget to ask the question, “Why am I making this software and who does this help?”.

Consequently, this one-mindedness produces buggy software which is often far too big and too broad. The newly developed software may be given the attention, however, if its focus is not on the user’s needs, it will be difficult to fulfill the user’s goals which will ultimately render the software useless.

People as the starting point of your tool

As an example, imagine an information system used by a school. Before you even begin developing, you must know who the end users are going to be. Would this be for the management, the administrative department, the teachers, or the students? If the end users have already been mapped out as well as what these users need/want from the system, then a great system can be made that will be practical for everyone because each of these users want something different.

For a school information system, for example, the board would want to have insight into the student database, the administration would want to be able to put data from all students into the system, a teacher would want to be able to enter the student’s grades, and a student would most likely want to be able to view the results he got from a recent exam. If the different users and their needs have not yet been mapped out, you will quickly end up with an unwieldy system with all kinds of functions that don’t work optimally for all types of users. The most important thing before the development process, therefore, is starting with the people.

Thinking about the user requirements before starting a project, therefore, is crucial. You would want to gain insight into whether what you are creating actually meets these requirements. You can do this by carrying out tests during the development process. Ask questions like, “Is this system simple and intuitive?”, “On which pages will the users spend the most time?”, “Which buttons would people use the most and which would be the least? Why?”. There are also tools with which you can investigate this, such as Hotjar. What you can map out using this tool answers the question “Is what we have created also exactly what customers need?”.

People are and always will be the starting point.

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